Wednesday, December 31, 2008

What That Black Male Teen Homicide Report Says and Doesn't Say

I have mixed feelings about the report titled, "The Recent Surge in Homicides Involving Young Black Males and Guns: Time to Reinvest in Prevention and Crime Control". Like what we want to hear about is more bad news. I'm wondering why did it take 6-8 years of 'fact-finding' for enough a trend to emerge for this report to be released? Since this all occurred during the Bush administration and is just as much a condemnation of his failed policies as everything else. Didn't Kanye say Bush didn't care about Black people?! 

As if we need to be told of how dire the circumstances are for (not wealthy) Blacks in a predominantly Black environment. So a "thinking head" at Northeastern University - James Alan Fox - figures out that more male teens have been killing each other since 2000. Gee, do ya think the economy and lack of police presence had something to do with it? The ease with which weapons can be acquired illegally thanks to the lobbying efforts of the NRA? The failure of the "We Are Victims of White Racism But We Do Nothing to Address the Failure of Our Leadership" Civil Rights crowd? While we're ready to tsk tsk and shake our heads or be angry we should be asking a few more questions. 

Why the call to arms over this particular issue at this time? Have we noticed how quickly certain parts of this report have been disseminated in the media in a very specific way? This will increase the fears of certain segments of the population. It's not a coincidence this report comes out right before Obama takes office. This also serves to demoralize others. Was this an act of benevolence and a warning or more rhetoric? Are you wondering who James Fox is?

James Alan Fox, Ph.D.

The Lipman Family Professor of Criminal Justice and 
Professor of Law, Policy and Society
Northeastern University
Boston, Massachusetts 02115

617-373-3296 office
617-416-4400 cell


Feel free to contact him and tell him how you feel about the report after reading it!

Report feedback via Associated Press

(AP) Black teenagers are killing each other in rising numbers as part of a troubling trend that has been masked by a falling crime rate in the United States, according to a new study released Monday by Northeastern University. 

FBI crime statistics show overall decreases in violent crime and murder. But amid those numbers, the report by criminal justice professors James Alan Fox and Marc Swatt found other disturbing trends. 

Among their findings: an increase of more than 39 percent in the number of black males between ages 14-17 killed between 2000 and 2007 and an increase of 34 percent in the number of blacks that age who committed homicide. 

The increases for white male teens, meanwhile, were nearly 17 percent and 3 percent, respectively. 

"We can't ignore the fact that hidden within the overall good news on crime is very bad news for a segment of the population - young black males - and that needs our attention," Fox said. 

Fox calls for an infusion of government money to beef up police forces and restore mentor, sports, after-school and summer programs that withered as federal funds were redirected from cities to homeland security after the Sept. 11 terror attacks. 

"We need to invest much more in the lives of these kids," Fox said. "I know there's lots of people who say times are tough and we don't have the money, but we either pay for these programs now or pray for the victims later because crime doesn't wait until the economy improves." 

Fox emphasizes that despite problems highlighted in his report, crime isn't out of control. Recent crimes statistics indicate progress, including a drop in overall crime and murder rates between 2006 and 2007, the most recent year available. The numbers are a vast improvement over the 1990s when the emergence of crack cocaine fueled an explosion in violence, the Northeastern report said. In 1993, 225 out of every 100,000 blacks ages 14-17 committed homicide compared with 81 out of 100,000 today. 

But that's an increase from 2000, when the number was 66 per 100,000. 

"When you stop paying attention to it, when you stop working at it, the problems can and do rebound," Fox said. 

The report indicates guns are overwhelmingly the weapon of choice for young black offenders and are now used in nearly 85 percent of all homicides they commit, matching 1990s levels. The Rev. Jeffrey Brown, executive director of the anti-crime Ten Point Coalition in Boston, said the spike in gun murders by and on young blacks "bears out what I see on the streets every day." 

"The victim and perpetrators of gun crimes are getting younger and younger," he said. 

Expansion in government and after-school programs would be welcome, he said. He added that local families and the larger community groups, particularly churches, also need to do more helping kids and families at risk from violence. 

Teens - who Brown said "don't know from one day to the next if a bullet screaming through their street has their name on it or not" - talk to him about more mentoring and after-school programs, more strong male and female role models. They also wonder if their lives would be different if their fathers were around. 

"When you get to the street level, politics doesn't matter. What matters are these young people and the daily violence that they have to face, and is there anybody out there to help them?" Brown said. "That's their question." 

But some warn more money for more programs could be wasted. Kay Hymowitz, a Manhattan Institute fellow who has studied the breakdown of marriage in the United States, said programs for at-risk youth are often ineffective and don't address the root problem of absentee fathers and fractured black families. 

"We still need to bring the conversation around to the subject that everyone has been uneasy about, and that's the breakdown of the family," she said. 

Hymowitz said people have shied from addressing the disarray in the black family because "it sounds like blaming blacks to some people." But she said the issue must be confronted head on. 

"We don't know how to bring fathers back into the family, but we do know that the silence on the subject over the last 40 years has been a disaster for blacks and this (report) is evidence of that," she said.
Why are there no studies on the poor quality of the lives of  Black female teens being dissected and given news coverage? Oh right, Black women don't count! And racism apparently doesn't apply if you don't exist. This just plays right into the tired argument of how (all) Blacks are victims and pathetic. Will the NAACP and "Hot Comb" Al Sharpton have anything to say about this or will they be holding a press conference defending the criminals as per usual? Jesse Jackson Sr. has been awfully quiet lately!

White male teen murder rates have also increased during this same period, but apparently the media likes to talk about how depraved Black people are exclusively. Columbine? A fluke! The Oklahoma terrorism and militia groups and growth of the KKK amongst younger whites? Hogwash! 

Apparently women don't express their aggression in ways worthy of studying by these male researchers either. I can't help but wonder aloud if Fox is looking for notoriety and a grant or two for being  a 'Black male homicide crime expert'? It's not as if it would take a rocket scientist to surmise that neighborhoods full of callously neglected, unemployed, enabling, besieged and otherwise accepting of the circumstances people that the outcome would be any different. We don't need yet another white person telling Black people how to feel or what to think.

This isn't a Hollywood movie where the white teacher with a heart of gold risks their relative comfort to go preach to the 'heathen' colored children about how they don't have to be savages anymore because said great white teacher can show them the way of humanity. And we can all feel good in about 1.5 hours pretending that's all it takes. As if certain policies have not caused harm and even prevented tackling some of the underlying issues at hand.

This report offers no solutions, no strategies for change, no identification of key elements to use to enact change and little accountability. Except to tell people that certain elements of Black society offer a bleak existence at best.

I did not believe this myself until a few short weeks ago. Certain neighborhoods are breeding grounds for dangerous people who will commit every evil act imaginable. We can dissect all the reasons for it and offer numerous 'solutions'. It's just time to roll outta there. This is a real-life Grand Theft Auto video game and somebody else has control of the joystick. If you don't want to you and yours to be part of someone else's fun for kicks it's time to go! 

It's the countdown to 2009. Leave and don't look back.

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Unknown said...

it's funny because, those of us who work with gangs and are in that culture know about this. We have been hootin' and hollerin' about it as well.

i agree, it doesn't take a huge 6 year study to see that. you can just ask any inner city police officer and they will tell you that

the studies have been released two years before an election cycle BUT if anything this past election cycle has taught us is that if you want to get in, you got to get in early..

being tough on crime is a sure shot way of getting voted in. Being accused of not being tough enough on crime is a sure shot way of losing big time.

Faith at Acts of Faith Blog said...

Yes but that tough on crime stance is a lie that was very skillfully exposed on the Wire. So do you find 'success' in your work where people get out of that lifestyle and into something more affirming?